Ann Nienhuis is the Research and Communications Director for the pro-life advocacy group We Need A Law.
The abortion pill in Canada is changing the landscape, there’s no doubt about that. Thousands have been prescribed in the first two years after its approval, and numbers are expected to continue to rise as more provinces fund the pills.
Further, as the initial requirement for special training has been removed, more doctors will be able to prescribe these pills. There is also pressure to allow women to take the pill without an ultrasound confirming how far along their pregnancy is, disregarding the safety of mothers in the name of accessibility.
Women on Waves flies abortion pills into countries where they are illegal and makes a spectacle of women rushing to get them to conveniently kill their babies because they “trust women to handle abortions themselves.”
Will the abortion pill render pro-life efforts ineffective? Does the fact that a child can be delivered at home and flushed down a toilet drain mean pro-life advocates, undecided Canadians, or even pro-choice Canadians, will forget about these children?
The abortion pill opens up a whole new avenue of horror, as women are taken out of the clinical environment of a doctor’s office and left to handle painful cramping, heavy bleeding, and disposal of a human fetus on their own.
Pro-Life women need to reach out
Women need the pro-life movement now more than ever, to reach them before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and after pregnancy, whatever the outcome. And women need the pro-life movement to make a tangible difference in how abortion is handled in Canada.
Part of reaching women, and impacting all abortions, is legislation that acknowledges the value of life in the womb.
Granted, if a woman is questioned as to the gestational stage of her pregnancy for legal reasons, it is possible she will consider it a hurdle and a technicality. But it is also possible she will consider why a pre-born child is protected, and what that means for the life she carries.
More than both of those, however, a law restricting abortion states that we, as a society, value motherhood, children, and the right to life. It states that we care about protecting our most vulnerable, even those entirely dependent on someone else for life. Valuing pre-born life places a deeper value on all life.
The impact of gestational laws
Does a gestational limit law then, where abortion remains legal in, for example, the first trimester, dampen the value placed on life?
In a recent article, pro-life advocate Marie-Claude Bissonnette asserts that gestational laws are a “trap” that “target all pre-born children” by focusing on issues like fetal viability, sex-selection, or appeal to a broader audience.
Yet it is exactly these types of incremental changes she proposes by suggesting a focus on attacking funding and advocating for physicians’ conscience rights. At some level she recognizes that incremental changes are where we need to be working for change to happen.
Bissonnette is concerned that a gestational law will end the discussion on the need for abortion legislation in Canada. A pro-choice Quebecer agrees.
To suggest, however, that an imperfect law will end the abortion debate is insulting to everyone advocating for political and legal change that would advance pre-born human rights in Canada. It misunderstands the scope and intention possible with a gestational law.
Bissonnette compares Canada to Denmark, which technically has a gestational limit law of 12 weeks, but also has liberal exceptions after 12 weeks. She claims that this law is the reason for the fact that abortion is not a hot button topic there. But is that really the case? Perhaps it would be better to look no further than our neighbours in the United States.
Pro-Life gains in the U.S.
Every year there are dozens of pro-life laws passed in the US, including gestational limits, and abortion is still very much a hot button topic. The pro-life movement is working with passionate determination to advance those laws further. Each victory saves more lives, and the pro-life movement continues to grow. Political victories have not quieted the debate – they have electrified it.
A gestational law is not all about a number of weeks up to which abortion is legal. At We Need a Law, we have developed a comprehensive abortion law that would impact every single request for abortion.
While our bill proposes that all abortions after 13 weeks be prohibited, it also ensures that all women requesting an abortion be given a 48-hour waiting period and receive independent counseling before receiving the abortion.
This means counseling from her abortion doctor as to whether to go through with an abortion will not suffice – she will be in contact with someone who does not stand to gain monetarily from her choice. This means she is less likely to get an abortion because she feels pressured, as screening can be done for coercion and abuse, two factors many women cite as reasons contributing to their choice to abort.
Not perfect, but a good start
The impact of the introduction of a law such as this cannot be overestimated. It would an opportunity for wide-open discussion on abortion; it would provide an ability to educate Canadians and debate the intersection of women’s rights and pre-born rights.
We will never compromise on the truth that life begins at fertilization, and abortion is an injustice that ends the life of a human being. That said, in the political arm of the pro-life movement we must find ways to advance protections for our pre-born neighbours.
The promotion of a comprehensive abortion law that includes a gestational component is, at heart, an effort protect more lives than are protected today. It’s about finding common ground where a discussion can be had instead of shut down by polarized arguments. It is a recognition that life in the womb has value, and deserves protection. It is an educational tool for all Canadians, a majority of whom think we already have a law.
It is a correction of the fact that we are the only democratic country in the world to offer no protection to pre-born children, and it is an indictment on a government that has let this go on for too long out of political correctness and fear.
A gestational law is not a perfect solution, but neither is it a trap. It is an achievable step to protect some, while we continue working to protect all.